Photographer Spotlight: Jessica Haydahl Richardson

We had the opportunity to speak with the “Photo Geek herself,” Jessica Haydahl Richardson. She had the pleasure of joining a group of fishy women to take on renowned Christmas Island. Linked by Skinny Waters, they were hosted by Lagoon View resorts to document their adventure. We look forward to her video work of a group of strong women doing something outside of their normal comfort zone. It will also be submitted to both the FT3 and IF4.

Flylords: How would you describe Jessica Haydahl Richardson

Jessica: I think that Jessica Haydahl Richardson is creative, adventurous, caring, determined, strong-minded, hard worker, personable, chit-chatty, family-oriented and loyal.

Flylords: How did this excursion to Christmas Island come about? 

Jessica: I tie flies with a group of women in Montana during the winter. We were sitting around one night and someone said we should go somewhere warm to go fly-fishing. Christmas Island got thrown into the mix and the planning then started from there.

Flylords: How was this fly fishing shoot different than your usual photography jobs? 

Jessica: This shoot was a lot different in terms of the conditions I would usually be photographing in. I had to figure out a lot of different logistics… like the way I was going to carry my camera gear all day and not ruin my back. I didn’t want my gear to become a burden and impede me from documenting the trip correctly.

Flylords: What were the challenges photographically on this trip? 

Jessica: Being in water almost the entire day and figuring out how to carry my gear. Also, trying to get coverage of 7 different people and rotate between them was difficult. The weather was the biggest issue for us. High winds and lots of rains throughout the day really made it challenging.

Flylords: Tells us about your most frightening moment on the trip. 

Jessica: We got dropped off in some deeper water looking for some big GT’s. The water was up to our waists and the sky was pretty dark; the boat then took off to drop some of the other anglers off a bit away from us. Suddenly a massive storm rolled through and you couldn’t see anything. I had a moment of “oh shit, do they know where we are?” kind of feeling. Also, the rain and wind and darkness felt like we were sitting shark bait.

Flylords: What was the best moment of the trip?

Jessica: I was fishing with one of the ladies, Jenny West. Jenny had really wanted to catch a Triggerfish and had been trying hard to hook one throughout the trip. On the second to last day on her final cast the guide spotted a Trigger Fish. Jenny made a great cast to the fish and the line took off. The expression and pure excitement on her face were pretty incredible to photograph and film. I started cheering for her and a wave of excitement and emotion came over me as well!

Flylords: What lens did you find yourself using the most?

Jessica: I found I shot primarily with the Nikon 16-35mm f4 lens and 24-70mm f2.8 lens. Most of my shots were up close and right there with my subject, so both of these lenses worked really well for still images and also video work.

Flylords: How did you manage to carry all your camera gear through the salt flats?

Jessica: I saw a photographer on Instagram that had used a small Scuba Diving Inflatable raft to carry all of his gear. He balanced his camera and underwater housing on the small raft and clipped a rope to his waist. He used this set up in Seychelles, so I thought it would be a great idea for Christmas Island. It turned out to work perfectly! “Bertha the Boat” was then born.  She held my underwater housing and my yeti backpack with 3 cameras inside. I also used a system called the Cotton Carrier system. There are a chest and hip mount carrier that I wore and was able to go hands-free with my cameras mounting to the harness set up.

Flylords: How did you deal with the changing weather and humidity?

Jessica: The changing weather and humidity were a big challenge. It rained every day or throughout the day. I had to quickly pack my gear away when the rains rolled through and then would bring them back out again once it all cleared up. I found I had some fogging issues with my underwater housing from sitting in the heat of the sun. So I ended up taking one of my lens cloths and soaked it in water to cover the housing from the direct sunlight. This kept the underwater housing at a good temperature and eliminated the fogging.

Flylords: What were your goals on this trip? 

Jessica: My goals for the trip were pretty lofty. I was documenting the trip for some brands and also for a Magazine article, but one of my main goals for this trip was to do some video work as well and then be able to create a short documentary film to submit to both the FT3 and IF4.  I really wanted to showcase a group of strong women doing something outside of there normal comfort zone and showcasing the unity and adventurous spirit of the trip.

Flylords: Did you end up meeting them?

Jessica: I ended up taking on a lot, but I felt like I achieved what I set out to do. Being the only shooter and trying to cover everyone and everything was a lot of work. I can’t say that the trip was a very restful vacation for me.

Flylords: What story were you trying to tell with your images?

Jessica: I was trying to capture document the entire experience of 7 women having an adventure together. For the still images, I was photographing for Anglers Journal magazine. For them,  I was trying to focus on not only the fish but the culture, lifestyle, and portraits of the some of the people on Christmas Island and of course the ladies on the trip and their experience.

Flylords: Which image is your favorite?

Jessica: One of my favorite images was not of anyone fishing. We were driving back from the dock at the end of the day and a man and women pasted us on a motorcycle. I had my 70-200mm lens in my hand and quickly snapped a shot of them driving past. The guy who was sitting behind the women had a spear gun over his shoulder, snorkel and mask on his head and a wide array of different types of fish and squid strung over the other solder. He had just happed to turn and look over at us as we passed them.  I love capturing these quick kinds of moments; ones that I know I will never see again.

Flylords: Do you find it hard to watch other people fish? 

Jessica: Yes. I have photographed sports fishing for almost a decade now. Nothing is harder for me to watch then Fly Fishing. I have photographed Big Marlin, Yellow Fin tuna and all sorts of other amazing fish on conventional tackle, but as soon as someone grabs the fly rod, a bit of envy comes over me. After I felt like I had successfully captured the trip, I then took the final day off of photographing to catch some of my own fish.

Flylords: Would you do it all again and go back?

Jessica: Yes I would go back again for sure. I didn’t get the chance to photograph any big GT’s so that is still on my list of fish to photograph.

Article Courtesy of Flylords team member Collin Terchanik.

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